Open teaching

Open teaching is a different way of thinking about higher education. I really enjoyed this topic, and it really struck a chord with my current concerns about where our industry is heading.

Changing paradigms

The six shifts exposed by Wiley really reveal why I feel so uncomfortable with the way higher education currently runs. Those societal shifts are:

  1. Analog => Digital
  2. Tethered => Mobile
  3. Isolated => Connected
  4. Generic => Personal
  5. Consuming => Creating
  6. Closed => Open

Education, unfortunately, sits on the wrong side of the fence. Student live a highly connected life and have to power-down to attend school. This doesn’t feel right.

The loss of a monopoly

Wiley explains that students are looking for different things when deciding to attend college: quality content, student services, a social life, and degrees. Higher education used to be the only place you could get these experiences. Nowadays, many specialized services can do it cheaply and more efficiently, but they aren’t necessarily connected.

For instance, you can find quality content from trusted sources at the MIT OpenCourseware, in iTunesU, on the online version of Encyclopedia Britannica, etc. You can get advice on which professors and classes to take on You can be social all day on Facebook or Google+. And you can get a Microsoft certification that opens more doors that a computer science degree for many jobs, or you can take tests from the Western Governors University without even setting foot in a classroom.

As the higher education model slips even further from reality, the market will start filling the gaps, and will challenge higher education institutions as the only way to become successful in a knowledge economy.

E-learning is not the answer

E-learning was innovative in 1995. I remember taking distance learning classes on VirtualU in 1997, that was something new. But if your institution has missed the boat on e-learning, chance are you’re way behind. But it also means that you have the chance to forget the e-learning model altogether and adopt a model that fits the needs of your current campus crowd and serves an outside clientele without breaking the bank.

Enter the MOOC

Massively Open Online Courses are a new breed of courses, where participants are usually self-motivated to learn something, but most of all, to connect around this event, content and people alike. Unfortunately, as demonstrated by Downes and Siemens (2008) and most recently by Sebastian Thrun and Perter Novig’s Artificial Intelligence class, costs, in time and money, can increase dramatically as the number of students increases in MOOCs.

These classes clearly demonstrate that online technologies can be used not only to share course content with the non-enrolled public but also to facilitate learner-learner and learner-instructor interactions in this group. However, these courses also demonstrate that a significant investment of time may be necessary to open a class to learners at a distance, particularly for instructors who wish to facilitate learner-learner and learner-instructor interactions.
The learner-instructor interaction seems to be the bottleneck of MOOCs. Especially when a paying campus course is offered. Campus students must get the top experience, which doesn’t mean the remote non-registered students should get nothing. For the remote participants, getting anything is better than nothing. As revealed in the Wired Campus article (Young, 2009):
In 2007 I began teaching a class that is not offered anywhere else (and still isn’t, as far as I know): “Introduction to Open Education.” I put the syllabus and all the readings online (no extra cost) and planned for all the student writing to be online (no extra cost).

The new certification

The beauty of a MOOC is that the work is all online, for students to keep and showcase, meaning that getting higher education credits is not as much of an issue. If I claim that I have done enough work to get badges in #ioe12, I have blog posts to back it up.
Also, a new trend tends to be related to getting certified by experts and gurus in your field, instead of second-tiered classes offered at your institution. I love the fact, for instance, that I could enroll in an independent study class at the University of Delaware, and work on this course, which is more relevant to my Ed. D. than most of the ones offered here at UD.

The sustainability of open

I did not realize that MIT’s OCW cost $4M per year to maintain… That’s a lot of money, and a commitment to a fuzzy external audience that most institutions are not willing to make. I like the approach that Wiley proposes, where the instructor of the class is responsible for publishing the content online (and providing the commons necessary for collaboration among students).

Such an approach is definitely more sustainable, but also requires a lot more faculty training, and mostly convincing.


One thought on “Open teaching

  1. Pingback: Claiming my novice badge for #ioe12 | Open Reflections

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